Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on November 19, 2015 and has been revised.
Far From Rome, Near To God: Testimonies of Fifty Converted Catholic Priests
By Richard Bennett
The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, 346 pp.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvific grace is provided through its seven sacraments administered by its priests and that it is then up to each Catholic to merit their salvation. Contrary to Catholic doctrine, the Bible teaches salvation comes freely to all those who repent of their sin and accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior by faith alone. Justification was the central issue of the Protestant Reformation and continues as the main difference between today’s evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics, along with many other irreconcilable doctrinal differences.
One might expect that, if anyone, Rome’s priests would be able to find contentment in Catholicism, but religious legalism offers no spiritual peace, either for clerics or their followers. In this book, Richard Bennett,* ex-priest and director of the Berean Beacon Gospel outreach ministry to Catholics (see website here), has compiled the testimonies of fifty ex-priests who turned from Catholic legalism and ritualism to Jesus Christ.
Each testimony is short, averaging about seven pages, so there are no lengthy examinations of Catholic theology. The men’s stories are similar in many ways: they entered training for the priesthood at an early age, they were surprised when they found the priesthood did not bring spiritual contentment, they were introduced to the Bible and were amazed at the differences between God’s Word and Catholic teaching, they struggled with the many ramifications of leaving the priesthood, and they finally rejected Catholic legalism and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Because the testimonies are so similar they tend to blend together, but we keep in mind that Heaven rejoices over every single sinner who trusts in Christ. Many readers, Protestant and Catholic, will be surprised to learn from this book that most priests have only a cursory knowledge of the Bible.
Many of these testimonies are dated. I imagine several were culled from the pages of “The Converted Catholic” and “Christian Heritage” magazines published several decades ago. In an age of growing ecumenism spurred on by the experiential charismatic movement, some may be surprised that anyone is still arguing that Roman Catholicism is not Christian. Many Christians have been fooled by the window dressings of Vatican II and its conciliatory overtures, but Rome has not changed any of its major doctrines or rescinded any of its anathematizing proclamations from Trent. In his opening speech at Vatican II, pope John XXIII declared “adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council.”
“Far From Rome, Near To God” is available through Amazon here. For a thorough examination of the doctrinal differences between Biblical Christianity and Catholicism, I would recommend “The Gospel According to Rome” by James G. McCarthy (see here). Check my Books tab here for a long list of resources which compare Catholicism to God’s Word.
*Richard Bennett went home to be with the Lord on September 23, 2019.